2020-08-06 | International News

California Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum – Act Now!

August 6, 2020

In August, 2019, the California Department of Education released the first draft of an Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum that was deemed problematic by multiple Jewish institutions for its inclusion of antisemitic content and for its exclusion of instructional materials on antisemitism. California Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Thurmond agreed that the draft curriculum needed significant revisions and noted in an interview with J Weekly that, “Acts of hate are happening against the Jewish people. They must be included.”

On August 3, 2020, the California Department of Education released the second draft of the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum and while a number of necessary changes were made, adequate instructional materials related to antisemitism are still missing. Furthermore, diverse Middle Eastern and North African communities and experiences are still excluded, including those of indigenous Middle Eastern-American Jews, also known as Mizrahi Jews.

The Time to Respond is Now!

Phone Public Comments Instructions

One minute comments to the Instructional Quality Commission meeting on Thursday, August 13th may be taken on a first come, first serve basis so please dial at the start of the session and do so twice:

  • Phone number: 712-432-0075
  • Access code: 651905#

1st time:  right at 10:00 AM to be higher in order to make sure your voice is heard (these comments will be for the History Social Science subcommittee).  Listen to their instructions carefully, sign up immediately, and listen carefully so you are available when they start calling for comments.  They may not call for public comments until 10:30 or 11.

2nd time: right at 3 pm (to comments will be to the full Instructional Quality Commission).  Again listen, sign up, and listen (see above). You can give the same comment as in the morning since this is a different group of people.

You can watch the meeting herehttps://www.cde.ca.gov/be/pn/lv/index.asp .

1 Minute SPEECH Using Talking Points Below

***If you are watching meeting, please mute volume on computer before speaking***


  1. Introduce yourself by name and if you live California, please say so. If you are a student, concerned parent, or educator, please be sure to say so.
  2. If you are a Mizrahi or Sephardic Jew, consider sharing your ethnic background and a bit about your family story. As an example, “My parents fled antisemitic persecution in Iran in 1979 and arrived in the United States as stateless refugees. As Middle Eastern – Jewish immigrants my family members experienced both antisemitism and xenophobia. ” If you need help with sharing your personal story, please get in touch.
  3. Please keep the tone positive as the California Department of Education is working extremely hard to create a high-quality curriculum.
  4. Select as many talking points below and copy and paste them into an email or call into the IQC meeting. Email to ethnicstudies@cde.ca.gov, ldh@stanford.edu, and info@jimena.org with the subject line – Include Antisemitism and the Middle Eastern-American Experience.

Talking Points for Middle Eastern and North African Jews

  • I would like to thank the California Department of Education for working so hard to improve the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum.
  • I am the descendant of the one million Jews who were ethnically cleansed or fled antisemitic persecution in the Middle East and North Africa. I am troubled to see their stories and the diversity and oppression of Mizrahi Jews and of other Middle Easterner communities omitted from this curriculum.
  • I am a Middle Eastern Jewish resident of (name of community) and identify as one of the 500,000 Californians of Middle Eastern heritage who was ignored in the revised Ethnic Studies curriculum. My family comes from a region that is racially, ethnically, culturally and religiously diverse yet the revised Ethnic Studies curriculum fails to reflect Middle Eastern and Jewish demographics both here and abroad.
  • As a Middle Eastern immigrant/resident/American and as a Jewish person, I continue to face bigotry and discrimination in this country.
  • As a Sephardic/Mizrahi/or Iranian-Jew (country of origin) I am both proudly Jewish and proudly Middle Eastern. My ancestors lived continuously in the Middle East for over 2,500 until they fled oppressive and systemic antisemitic persecution. In keeping with AB 2016’s objective of “preparing pupils to be global citizens with an appreciation for the contributions of multiple cultures,” my community, and the more than 60% of other Middle Eastern groups in California deserve equal representation and inclusion in the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum.

Talking Points Related to Antisemitism

  • 2018 California Hate Crime Statistics noted that Anti-Jewish events increased by over twenty percent while Anti-Muslim bias events decreased by more than forty percent. As a Jewish person who has experienced/witnessed religiously motivated hate, I believe our students deserve to learn about both Islamophobia and Antisemitism in an ethnic studies framework.
  • When the primary reference of Jews in the revised Ethnic Studies curriculum is in the context of our communities being the beneficiaries of white privilege – my Middle Eastern Jewish community, which is comprised of multiple immigrants and people of color, is completely erased. I fear this unit will contribute to the dangerous antisemitic trope that, “Jews Have Too Much Power.” Furthermore, this reference ignores the experiences of European Jews who continue to be personally impacted by violent white-supremacy, genocide, and acts of antisemitism.
  • At a time when there is great need to provide our students with high-quality educational content related to bigotry, it is essential to incorporate adequate instructional material on antisemitism – not just simplistic references to it.

Direct Asks

  • All references to Middle Eastern people in the curriculum should include, specifically name, and teach on the diverse groups of Mizrahi Jews, Coptic Christians, Kurds, Iranians, Assyrians, and other minority groups from the region who together represent 60% of California’s Middle Eastern population and have asked for inclusion. In order for the curriculum to avoid an essentialist understanding of Arabs and the Middle East, and in order to be well balanced, each group should be equally and equitably represented in the Ethnic Studies Curriculum. All units and lesson plans referencing any Middle Eastern group should be titled either “Middle Eastern-Americans” or “Southwest Asians and North African – Americans.”
  • I would like to see the next draft of the curriculum include the lesson plan, “Antisemitism and Middle Eastern-American Jews” produced by the organization, JIMENA: Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa, as it will provide students with high-quality instruction on contemporary issues of antisemitism, bigotry, and the Middle Eastern-American Jewish experience.
  • The ESMC should make clear that under the “broadly defined umbrella of Asian Studies” are Mizrahi Jews and other Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) groups which represent ~60% of CA’s MENA population. California Department of Education’s Chapter 3 agrees: appropriate topics in the Asian section of Ethnic Studies courses are “the unique experiences of Arabs and other Middle Easterners.”